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As coronavirus cases surge, Lee Health responds to tough environment

By Staff | Jul 14, 2020

Florida experienced one of its most deadly reporting days for COVID-19 on July 14 when 132 new deaths tied to the coronavirus were reported statewide.

Florida cases of COVID-19 reached a new one-day national record with 15,300 new positives reported on July 11. As of July 14, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases has reached 291,269 statewide according to the Florida Department of Health. In just one month, the number of coronavirus positives have more than tripled in the state.

The number of deaths in Florida from the coronavirus increased from 4,301 on July 11 to 4,514 on July 13. Statewide, deaths have increased 27% since June 29. In Lee County, there have been 203 coronavirus deaths. There were 15 new deaths reported in Lee County on July 15, though most were backlogged dating back to June 24. The two most recent COVID-19 deaths reported in the county were on July 10 involving a 49-year-old male and 77-year-old female. The 49-year-old’s death was the ninth involving someone 54 or younger in Lee County.

In Lee County, a new one-day record was set when the number of positive COVID-19 cases jumped from 8,848 to 10,123 on July 12. The number of coronavirus cases in Lee County has leveled off the last two days. As of July 14, there are 10,631 coronavirus cases confirmed in the county. Since June 29, coronavirus cases in Lee County have spiked 98%.

There have been more than 2.6 million people tested in Florida for COVID-19 with the Florida Department of Health reporting a single-day record for tests with 95,335 people tested on July 9, which was broken on July 11 with 142,972 tests. The second-most tested day was July 12 when 112,261 people were tested. The percentage of positives has decreased from previous highs in Lee County with 13.7% positives on July 13 which was down from 20% positives on July 8 and 34% positives on June 29.

At Lee Health, there were 307 COVID-19 patients isolated as of July 13, representing a doubling in the number of hospitalizations there since June 22.

Lee Health CEO Larry Antonucci said the hospital is at 95% staffed operational bed capacity and 82% licensed bed capacity.

“You shouldn’t be alarmed that we are approaching our capacity, as the number changes throughout the day as patients are admitted and discharged,” Antonucci said. “We are working our surge plan, including reducing elective surgeries and bringing in more staff, to open additional beds.”

Antonucci said he expected to bring on another 100 staffed beds.

“We are seeing an unprecedented number of hospitalizations for this time of year,” Antonucci said.

With schools set to begin reopening, Antonucci said Lee Health “has been working closely with school officials to come up with a safe way to open the schools up.” Antonucci said the schools will be following state safety guidelines relating to masks and social distancing.

According to the Florida Department of Education, schools are working with the local Department of Health to establish safety protocols. The Department of Education is also mandating that desks be six feet apart in all classrooms. Schools are also being advised to develop comprehensive health plans for medically vulnerable students. Other guidelines include promoting frequent washing of hands and sanitizing of surfaces.

Schools are supposed to develop disinfection protocols for cleaning door knobs and surfaces. Schools are being advised not to allow symptomatic students and staff to return to school until they are cleared by a medical provider or meet CDC guidelines. While masks aren’t being mandates, schools are being advised to consider ways to strategically utilize them where feasible. Hygiene stations are also recommended by the Florida Department of Education.

Antonucci called on the community to heed safety precautions, including good hygiene, safe distancing and mask-wearing.

“We continue to see the coronavirus spread at record-setting rates,” Antonucci said. “The coronavirus is primarily spread through aerosolized respiratory droplets, and by keeping a safe distance from others you can help prevent the spread of these droplets. Safe distancing means keeping at least a 6-foot distance between yourself and others, even when wearing a mask. I know this can be inconvenient in places like the grocery store, but when you must go out in public, keeping a safe distance coupled with mask wearing is the safest way to protect yourself and others.”